- Change will make it easier for ICO to issue fines up to £500,000.
- No longer need to prove a company caused ‘substantial damage or substantial distress’.
- Effective 6 April 2015.
- Government also ‘considering’ measures to hold board level executives responsible.
- Electronic marketing, including marketing calls and texts, are covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).
- Automated Marketing calls/texts: PECR requires organisations to have an individual’s consent.
- Live Marketing Calls: the organisation must not contact people who have opted out, example: registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
Original Author: DCMS / ICO
Consumers plagued by nuisance calls and texts will benefit from the Government changes to the law, which will make it easier for those firms responsible to be hit with fines of up to £500,000.
The law currently requires the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to prove a company caused ‘substantial damage or substantial distress’ by their conduct before action can be taken. Following a six-week public consultation, the Government is now removing this legal threshold, giving the ICO the power to intervene in more cases. This change will come into effect from 6 April 2015.
The Government also confirmed it will look at introducing measures to hold board level executives responsible for nuisance calls and texts. This follows a report from the Which?-led taskforce last December, which called for a review of the rules in order to act as a stronger deterrent to rogue companies.
Nuisance calls and texts remains a significant concern for consumers – in some cases they are not only annoying, but can also cause distress especially amongst vulnerable people in society. The latest data and research shows that:
- Around four out of five people surveyed by consumer group Which? said they are regularly cold-called at home, with a third of them left feeling intimidated.
- There were 15,642 complaints related to nuisance calls and texts made to the ICO in November 2014, of which solar panel accounted for 2,377, whilst for PPI the figure was 1,830.
- In total there were over 175,000 complaints related to nuisance calls and texts made to the ICO for 2014.
Currently the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has powers to take enforcement action against companies who flout the existing rules on direct marketing. Since January 2012, the ICO has taken enforcement action against nine companies for nuisance calls and text messages, hitting them with fines totalling £815,000. Separately, Ofcom has powers to deal with abandoned and silent calls by taking action against offenders that persistently misuse a network or service resulting in annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety. Since 2012, Ofcom has fined seven companies totalling £1,618,000 for abandoned and silent calls.
Electronic marketing, including marketing calls and texts, are covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). The regulations require organisations to have an individual’s consent to make automated marketing calls or send marketing texts to that person. For live marketing calls, the organisation must not contact people that have opted out of receiving them; most commonly by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
The ICO currently has the power to issue monetary penalties of up to £500,000 if the ICO is able to prove that the marketing calls or messages caused, or had the potential to cause, ‘substantial damage or distress’. The ICO has called for this bar to be lowered to make it easier to fine companies who are breaching the regulations but who would currently not meet this statutory bar.
The DCMS has published details about the changes. The changes are set to come into effect on 6 April 2015.